China faces toughest reconstruction task since 1976 quake

May 21st, 2008 - 6:50 pm ICT by admin  

Xinhua
Beijing, May 21 (Xinhua) After the May 12 killer quake wreaked havoc in the southwestern province of Sichuan, killing over 40,000 people, China is faced with the formidable task of reconstruction. According to authorities, the toll in the quake may go well beyond 50,000 as rescue workers stretch to clear the rubble to find possible survivors and prevent outbreak of diseases. Some 250,000 people were injured in the devastating quake.

By all standards, it will be the toughest reconstruction task since 1976 when the north-eastern coastal city of Tangshan was levelled by a 7.8-magnitude quake, killing over 240,000 people.

However, unlike the Tangshan disaster, a strong economy growing annually at nearly 10 percent, is expected to help the province recover faster, say experts.

Zhu Jing, in her 30s, could have never imagined the life she is living today - a refugee with nothing to fall back upon.

Following the earthquake, she fled her hometown Dujiangyan, one of the worst affected cities, to neighbouring Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan.

“I still owe the bank nearly 100,000 yuan (about $14,300). I have spent almost the same amount to renovate my house and buy home appliances,” she said.

Zhu was not alone. In Sichuan some 2.9 million houses were flattened and nearly 14 million others damaged, according to a preliminary estimate.

Zhuang Jian, a senior economist of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), told Xinhua that the disaster had caused huge loss to property and wealth overnight that presents a mammoth task for reconstruction.

Clearly, the quake ruined the economy of dozens of counties hit hard by the quake, Zhuang said.

A preliminary investigation showed that 14,207 industrial enterprises suffered 67 billion yuan of direct economic loss in the calamity, the ministry of industry and information technology said Monday.

Wang Bin, Communist Party secretary of the Wenchuan county, said the quake had flattened nearly all the buildings and factories and damaged infrastructure.

“Undoubtedly, Wenchuan’s economy sustained a fatal blow. The infrastructure built in the last decades was destroyed suddenly,” Wang said.

As the government at all levels is still focused on quake relief and disease prevention work, there is no official figure of overall economic loss arising from the disaster.

Some economists had estimated that the economy suffered a loss of over 500 billion yuan from the earthquake, more than three times that caused by the snow and ice storm in February.

The storm swept across central China and disrupted transportation and energy supply and pushed up commodities prices.

Zhuang said the earthquake’s impact on the Chinese economy as a whole will, however, be limited as Sichuan’s GDP accounted for no more than five percent of the country’s total.

In 1976, when the Tangshan earthquake struck, the Chinese people were living under a strictly-planned economy and didn’t have private property.

Thirty-two years later, China has become a market economy. But for reconstruction after the Wenchuan quake, the government still has to play a central role, said Zhuang.
Xinhua

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